After seven years of living on the ocean, Willy Wonka (Timothée Chalamet) has decided to say farewell to the sea and start afresh in a city over the horizon. Willy Wonka is a skilled magician and chocolate maker with determined dreams of opening a brand-new chocolate store. However, after landing on shore and entering the town, it doesn’t take long until he is penniless. A village local, Mrs Scrubbit (Olivia Colman), offers him a room. However, because Wonka cannot read, he is tricked into signing a contract, and now he must fulfil various duties. No matter the foul play from Mrs Scrubbit, Wonka remains positive and makes chocolate when time permits.
To make matters even more challenging, when word gets around about Wonka’s arrival and his dream of opening a store, three cruel chocolate sellers will do whatever it takes to ensure he fails. The trio bribe the Chief of Police (Keegan-Michael Key) with large portions of chocolate for his sweet tooth. Thankfully, Wonka isn’t battling against all the opponents on his own. Noodle (Calah Lane) is also bound to work for Mrs. Scrubbit and hopes for freedom. As he teams up with Wonka, an exciting adventure awaits them both—a tale filled with dreams, imagination, and tasty chocolate.
For those unaware, Wonka serves as a prequel to Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971). Wonka was directed by Paul King, best known for his work behind the camera in the family hit films Paddington and Paddington 2. Once again, Paul King delivers a lively, touching, fun, and perfect movie for family audiences. Timothée Chalamet is no Gene Wilder, and honestly, no one could ever be. Thankfully, we get an excellent and likable performance from Chalamet and a different interpretation of the popular character. He’s lively, energetic, and like tasty chocolate; he’s also sweet, making it nearly impossible not to like him. There are many great side characters throughout the story, including Hugh Grant, Keegan-Michael Key, and Olivia Colman, making the film continually exciting.
Everything here is enjoyable and entertaining in the story, with only a slight drag in pace between the second and third acts. Where Wonka shines powerfully and firmly is during the film’s final moments, which are undoubtedly touching and heartfelt. Visually, it should come as no surprise that Wonka is a colourful and dazzling film, from the set designs to Wonka’s outfit and the delightful amounts of chocolate displayed throughout. Various musical scores by Joby Talbot are excellent and, for the most part, provide more fantastic ingredients for the story, including through the opening sequence in which we learn about Wonka’s past and journey leading up to his arrival in a new city. While not every song and dance is memorable, they’re still integral to the story and feel joyful whenever they occur.
Overall, Wonka is a delightful prequel filled with a touching and heartfelt story of where Wonka’s dreams were birthed and the challenges of bringing them to reality. Musical numbers are joyous, with stunning creativity and fun visuals for the entire duration. Thankfully, this isn’t just a Wonka story. There are many side characters who, like the lead, are equally entertaining and deliver terrific performances. Like freshly made chocolate, Wonka carries all the right ingredients. It’s nothing but a boost of utter sweetness and happiness.
Wonka (2023) will be available in Australian Cinemas starting December 14th.